- Travel Topics
We spent 12 days in Switzerland. Here is a collection of our impressions, travel tips, and the cost break down.
Swiss cities tend to be on the small side and are often very quaint and charming but don’t necessarily warrant more than a few days in each. We were on a tight schedule as we had only allocated around 12 days so the goal was to move around a lot and see as much as we could.Overall it was a very solid route/itinerary.
The best part of Switzerland has got to be the nature. The train rides are less of a boring chore to get from A to B as much as they are an opportunity to marvel at the beautiful mountains and lakes that cover the Swiss landscape. It’s pretty much unlike anything we’ve seen to date, with probably the biggest rival being Austria. There’s also a ton of outdoor activities to do, particularly in Interlaken where it seems like just about everyone is going skydiving, canyoning, or kayaking.
We really liked all the cities we visited – Bern, Lucern, even Zurich for which we had relatively low expectations (we had been told it was mostly a working town).
Really, the main drawback in Switzerland is just the exorbitant prices. The way I usually explain it to people is imagine the most you’d ever want to pay for something and then double it (or better yet, triple it). On top of that I thought the accommodation options were relatively poor, again overpriced, and almost petty. We had multiple places charge us for wifi, bag storage, etc. I really feel like this is just poor form on their part because they know just about everyone who comes to the hostel is going to need these things, so it’s a way to lower the advertised price of the hostel while then hitting you with all the extras. Oh, and often check in isn’t until 4pm (while checkout is usually an early 10am)!
We had very few meals out in Switzerland due to the absurd price of dining out. My friend and I went to two restaurants the whole time we were there – one play to try the rosti (like hash browns) and one place to try the fondue and racelette. We also had a few sausages that we just purchased from food stands on the street that were pretty good and relatively cheap. So for best food there is a tie between the rosti and the sausages, though we can’t exactly rave about the Swiss food and don’t think you’re missing out on much if you don’t try all the dishes.
In Switzerland one of my closest friends from home joined us for 10 days so this was the best part for me. It was great to travel as a group of 3 for a change and to switch up the travel dynamic for a bit. It was great to have a friend join us on the trip for an extended period and though this has nothing to do with Switzerland in particular it was the best part of my time in Switzerland.
Biggest Rip Off:
Frankly the whole country, however, the thing that irked me the most was the accommodations and all the extras they charge you for (which just about everywhere else are included in the normal price of a hostel).
We took a few local buses around town. Like most things in Switzerland there is an honor system as to whether or not you buy a ticket. Of course, if you get caught without a ticket there is a hefty fine, which varies but it’s enough to make you want to buy the ticket. I will say we very rarely got asked to show our ticket, mostly just on the very long train rides from city to city but not really intra-city. If you’re there for only a short time well…you make your own choices.
The train system in Switzerland is world reknown for being extremely fast and prompt. If you miss your train by even a few seconds well, that’s that, time to wait for the next one (but luckily, that one shouldn’t be late). Trains are very expensive and though side by side comparisons we opted not to get the rail pass (which was the right decision for us). To be honest, the rail pass isn’t exactly cheap either, and really only saves you money if you travel to a lot of places all over the country and, additionally, are under 26. Make sure to calculate the cost of paying for the journeys as you go versus getting the rail pass — it won’t always be cheaper with the rail pass.
We did not take any cabs in Switzerland as I imagine they are going to be fairly expensive.
We didn’t take any long distances buses in Switzerland, all trains.
We were able to get a few student discounts at museums so make sure to carry the student id with you!
Often toilets in Switzerland were not free so it’s good to carry a bit of change with you.
Switzerland is very safe.
Unfortunately because Switzerland is so expensive we economized a lot on food and ate mostly at the grocery store. I didn’t go to a restaurant once.
Credit Cards And Money
We were able to use our credit cards sometimes, though we have cards without the chip so this gave us trouble sometimes.
Internet is widely available.
Because we were with Vicky’s friend we decided to do mostly hostels, often dorm rooms and a few times private rooms. Apartments were too expensive and we didn’t want to couchsurf with three people. The hostels were nice albeit it expensive and often times charged us for things like wifi, bag storage, and wouldn’t let us check in until 4pm.
We did not couchsurf in Switzerland.
We kept track of every cost we had down to the purchase level and categorized it into 5 groupings:
So where did we end up?
$97 per person, per day.
Would we go back to Switzerland? Maybe.
The problem with Switzerland is that it’s too damn expensive and doesn’t necessarily offer anything you can’t get elsewhere. Yes the nature is spectacular but the nature is also spectacular in Austria, China, and many other countries we’ve been to, which are much more reasonably priced. Unfortunately on our budget we weren’t able to fully enjoy all that Switzerland had to offer (we largely ate at the grocery store) and therefore for at least the short term Switzerland is at the bottom of the list for where we want to return to.